(In darkness, unremitting party noise is heard. Piano music plays off-stage and on occasion, peals of too-loud laughter perforate the roar.)
(The lights reveal no set to speak of, just a well-dressed couple soon to know they’re ELEANOR and GEORGE. Each holding tight a champagne flute, they’re pressed together by the unseen crowd. They both are of that age – their thirties, early forties – when youth’s great and glowing promises have been corroded.)
Stop. You’re such a flirt.
Not really, no. A flirt’s a shallow, rank self-serving flatterer. I simply complimented you.
But with – what should I say? — suggestive emphasis.
More nonsense. I just spoke of what I see in front of me.
You spoke quite graphically of what my dress reveals.
Of course. It’s why you wore it. I suppose you’d have me gawk at patterns in this Megerian carpet, or turn my ever-watchful eye to look at walls, when there you are — oh, covered, yes; but yes: revealing all that law and style and stunning taste allow.
You’re doing it again. I haven’t worn a dress like this since, well, I can’t remember.
I believe you’re blushing.
No, I do not blush.
I heard somewhere that blushing only shows on skin that is exposed. For instance, if you blush when you’re buck-naked, so much blood would be called forth to reach each lovely inch of your amazing flesh, you might just have a heart attack.
You must stop saying things like that.
The reason being?
You’ll be overheard and thought to be, well, hitting on me.
I accept the guilt, objecting only to the verb. ‘To hit on’? Such a metaphor suggests a silent violence, when what I’m doing — with the help of thrilling syntax more appropriate to you — is using a technique, a skill, an art that used to be imperative to anyone who’s civilized called: ‘charm.’ It doesn’t possibly include the grunted bludgeoning: ‘ I’m hitting on you.’ That’s a belching troglodyte’s inept and drooling mouth-wad!
What a furious denunciation.
Fury is required in these days of instant concupiscent climax, when the barest glance fulfills all need of foreplay, and a kiss is only killing time before a hurried coitus. I still try to…
That’s enough. I must get back…
To what? Or whom? We’re here amidst this getting-nicely-looped, quite noisy drawing room, with all these hundred roused escapees from who knows what grim entitled lives. Oblivious to the conflagrations of the world, we gossip with our glib and waggish wit about our nation’s failing progress, stuck in the paralysis of petty politics, our culture fidgeting with each new vile vulgarity, our sad societal sclerosis slowing us in preparation for our amber preservation with the insects.
‘Our amber preservation’?
Do you disagree?
I wouldn’t dare, but don’t you need a soapbox, or a pulpit, just so everyone can hear your homily?
No need, with you the only congregation that I want.
Forgive me, I forgot your name.
We hadn’t gone that far.
Oh well, perhaps this is the perfect time to say how nice it was to meet you and be gone.
Perhaps it’s not. My name is George. Is that enough, or must we open up the family names or where we’re from and desperately search for schools, relations, occupations? God! Will we descend into the pit of spoken hopelessness to ask, ‘What do you DO,’ and then sink further into quicksand querying about our real estate? Look, if we decided things without the tedious excavation of the context of our lives, and made our choices based on nothing more than words and instinct, we could be away from here quite soon.
You talk so well — but at such length.
And I’ll agree. What is your name?
I wonder if you ever stop. It’s Eleanor.
I stop when I am gagged, unconscious for whatever reason, or if something very pleasant interrupts to fill my mouth with sensuality.
Like ice cream.
Yes. That worked when I was ten.
So long ago.
It is a measure of eternity between my last banana split and meeting you tonight.